Hikaru no Go Vol. #06 (of 19) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, January 01, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What They Say
Hikaru resolves to catch up to his rival, the Go prodigy Akira Toya. With that goal in mind, he decides to take the insei test, the first step toward turning pro. But that decision puts him at odds with his friends in the Go club, and he must choose between friendship and his Go ambitions.

Contains episodes 21-24:
The Haze Middle School Go Club
The Insei Test
The Championship Room
Akira vs. The Oza

The Review!
The path that Hikaru wants to walk now faces its first true fork and the choice is one that will put him to the test.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly standard stereo mix with a lot of the show being focused around dialogue as opposed to action effects or even all that much music. Both play into the show well at times with various effects but they're not dominant. The dialogue however is nicely done with plenty of placement due to the nature of Sai's voice effectively being able to come from anywhere. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions with either language track.

Originally airing back in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this show are in great shape which has resulted in a very good looking transfer here that is essentially problem free. This set of episodes seemed prone to a bit more line jitter, often coming just before scene transitions, which proved to be rather distracting. Beyond that, the only area where we could really find much issue on our setup was during some of the angled panning sequences over the Go board where the numerous close lines started to shake a bit which is essentially just a product of NTSC. Otherwise, the show has some very vibrant and strong colors in key places and maintains a solid real-world style color scheme that helps to highlight the more unusual aspects that come into it.

As the focus in Hikaru's life changes, the people he has to deal with change as well and there's a good mix here with those that he's close to and those who are watching him from a distance waiting to see what he'll do. The character artwork is good overall, though Meijin looks a bit off in his design compared to the rest. The back cover brings in the logo again at the top and has a brief summary of the shows premise and lists the episodes and titles. Between that and the discs features (and obvious plug for the manga) there are a few bubbles of shots from the show. The bottom portion goes for a heavy credits listing and some basics in the copyright and required logos but no technical grid. The insert for the release has a softened image of a Go layout while laid on top of it is the episode list with their corresponding chapters. The reverse side is a big push for the Shonen Jump magazine and the various graphic novels.

The main menu is nicely done with a mixture of animation and static pieces. The main static image wraps around an oval along the right side where clips and stills from the show play out. The left side brings in the series logo and as close to an action pose as you can get with Hikaru and the Go pieces while next to him below the clips is a board load with pieces on it and each of them being set next to a navigation selection. The layout is very easy to navigate and the style used is very much in theme with the show and looks solid. From the menu, you can perform language selections easily and each can be toggled so you can get English language with English subtitles, or turn subtitles off, but what is really bothersome and is either poor authoring or inane license restrictions is that you cannot change subtitles on the fly. This feature is locked out and locked out features that are considered basics of the format is simply wrong. I had hoped that Viz would fix this in the future but apparently it's something that they cannot do; the insert with this volume provides a bit of text along the bottom indicating that you cannot change the subtitle tracks on the fly with your remote. That likely removes incompetence as the reason for it and puts it in licensing restrictions which really doesn't make sense since you can still manipulate them to get what you want, just not on the fly.

A small but good selection of extras makes their way into this volume. The best one is that there's a brief but useful glossary/liner note section that covers some of the various terms and retained Japanese words as well as a few Go concepts. This is followed-up with a section of sketches and storyboards as well as another of the manga preview sections.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The passage of time isn't always easy to tell with an anime series but it's been just about a year since Hikaru first starting taking up Go. During that time he's come quite far and has learned a lot, so much so that we don't quite focus on his trials in playing the game anymore but rather the mental struggle to keep up with people that are obviously more experienced players than he is. The lessened focus on the board itself works well as now we get to focus more on the participants and less on the technicalities of it all.

Hikaru's choice to become and Insei is one that was plainly obvious to him in his pursuit of Toya, something that he's even more vigorously serious about after the last volume. His lack of general knowledge about the world of Go is still a major problem though as he didn't realize that becoming one would mean that he can no longer participate in amateur tournaments and things like the school Go club. The revelation to him when he makes his announcement starts to set off a flurry of accusations among the friends, but it's the quick arrival of Kaga from the Shogi club that puts it all in perspective. Having Hikaru play three boards at once against three different opponents shows them that even though he doesn't win all three he's got the capability to grow beyond what they are.

His journey into the world of an Insei is just as fascinating to watch, though partially because of his big mouth in how he does things. Before he even gets there you get another look at how his mother is handling all of this since she needs to sign him up for his test. With Hikaru having been so average or even below average in many ways, she can't believe that he has any kind of shot at this, especially when she finds out that he has to sit formally for it for the duration of the game that's used to examine his abilities. Once he gets underway though, his lack of thought gets him into more trouble as he reveals that he's someone that Akira considers his rival. Naturally, his style of play doesn't bear this out since it was Sai that had done Akira in but there are signs of his growth in there. The instructor learning that Hikaru had been playing three games at once ended up cementing that pretty well.

Some new relationships start to crop up now that Hikaru is an Insei and some time is given to getting to know a little about the kids he's playing with. This is complemented by watching Akira going through the steps that he has to learn as a first level pro player, including going through his introductory match with a higher level pro player. Akira's been somewhat off since his last encounter with Hikaru where he promised never to stand before him again and his instructors have noticed. Realizing what may be truly motivating him, they go through a bit of a ruse in order to put both Akira and Hikaru together. The results prove once more that the two are destined for something much larger than themselves in the long run.

Hikaru no Go has been a fairly slow moving series in the larger scheme of things and it becomes more noticeable in this volume. With six volumes now done, covering the first twenty-four episodes of the series, it really is only now that the gauntlet is truly thrown down before the two main players that will challenge each other. Their rivalry has been growing in simmering since the first time that Akira played against Sai but now others are starting to tweak each of them in order to draw out their true potentials. Without that spark to ignite them, neither will ever truly become what they're capable of.

In Summary:
This series has been engaging from the start but with this volume it starts to move on to a new level as Hikaru's life is changing because of his pursuits. So many shows seem to start and end with nothing really changing in the lead characters life. That's not happening here as Hikaru has a goal to pursue and it's changing the way his life will play out because of it. While the video seems to be really hit or miss with the jitter and the problems it causes, the show is certainly engaging enough to suffer past it, particularly since it seems like a source issue. If this show ever comes out in seasonal style sets, it'd be easy to marathon it in just a day and feel like you need more. Each volume has me wanting more when it's over and that need is never sated quick enough.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Go Glossary,Storyboards & Sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hikaru no Go